Tag Archives: Startup

Start a business, but not for the wrong reasons

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If you are planning to start a business, it is important to understand “why” you are doing so. Each venture has its own “why” and mission. However, some reasons are the wrong ones to begin with, and I will talk about 3 of them in this piece  The motivation to start a business vary for each founder or founding team. You may be seeking to offer an innovation, improve an existing process, or fill an existing market gap.  However, as a consultant, I have noticed a new wave of “aspiring” business owners who are seeking to become entrepreneurs. Yet, their reasons for doing so are shallow and lack a valid commercial basis.  Some of the common themes among these wrong reasons are: 1. Not wanting to have a boss  The mindset of starting a business so you can not have a boss to answer to is a dangerous one.  You are indeed in charge of everything and there is not a superior that you have to be accountable to.  Nevertheless, I learnt that even as a business owner, your customers and other stakeholders are your boss. These are parties that you must keep happy and be accountable to.  Thus, the idea that by being a business owner you will forfeit accountability is incorrect.  2. Getting rich quickly I am not denying that businesses are commercial entities. Hence, making money is the primary motive.  However, entrepreneurship should not be viewed as the gateway to getting rich quickly. This is unlikely to happen rapidly in the case of most businesses and it will take time, risk, resources and patience.  If you are unwilling to invest the abovementioned into starting a business and are looking to make a quick buck, you may be in for disappointment.  3. Ego and vanity Lastly, if starting a business is a tool to stroke your ego and “show off”, you are in for the wrong reason. My philosophy is that the first step towards starting a business is to drop your ego and adopt the mindset that you know nothing.  These are 3 common wrong reasons for starting a business. Before doing so, make sure that you have a clear “why” and emphasise the commercial context of starting a business.  About | My name is Sohrab Vazir. I’m a UK-based entrepreneur and business consultant. At the age of 22, and while I was an international student (graduate), I started my own Property Technology (PropTech) business, StudyFlats. I now help other entrepreneurs, such as myself, with their businesses, and mainly with obtaining endorsements from the endorsing bodies.

Startup funding: a simple guide

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Navigating the world of startup funding can be a daunting task for founders. Securing the right type of cash injection at the right time is crucial for your startup. This comprehensive guide will walk you through the various stages of startup funding, the types of funding available, and best practices to attract investors. What is Startup Funding? Startup funding refers to the money that entrepreneurs raise to launch and grow their new business ventures. This funding can come from various sources, each with its own benefits and requirements. The primary goal is to secure enough capital to cover initial costs, sustain operations, and scale the business until it becomes profitable. Stages of Startup Funding 1. Pre-Seed Funding Pre-seed funding is the earliest stage of funding, often coming from the founders themselves, friends, family, or small angel investors. This stage focuses on developing the initial business idea, market research, and creating a minimum viable product (MVP). 2. Seed Funding Seed funding is the first official equity funding stage. It helps startups conduct product development, market research, and business model validation. 3. Series A Funding Series A funding focuses on scaling the product and user base. Startups use this funding to optimize their product offerings, expand the team, and enter new markets. 4. Series B Funding Series B funding is used for scaling operations, including expanding the market reach, hiring additional team members, and improving technology. 5. Series C Funding and Beyond Series C funding and subsequent rounds are aimed at scaling the business rapidly, developing new products, entering international markets, or preparing for an acquisition or IPO. Types of Startup Funding 1. Bootstrapping Bootstrapping involves funding the startup using personal savings or revenue from the business. It allows founders to retain full control and ownership but can limit growth due to limited capital. 2. Angel Investors Angel investors are high-net-worth individuals who invest their personal funds in startups in exchange for equity. They often provide mentorship and valuable industry connections. 3. Venture Capital (VC) Venture capital firms invest in startups with high growth potential in exchange for equity. They typically get involved in later stages (Series A and beyond) and provide significant funding along with strategic guidance. 4. Crowdfunding Crowdfunding involves raising small amounts of money from a large number of people, typically via online platforms like Kickstarter or Indiegogo. It’s an excellent way to validate market interest and gain early customers. 5. Grants and Competitions Grants and competitions offer non-dilutive funding, meaning you don’t have to give up equity. These are often provided by government programs, non-profits, or industry competitions. 6. Bank Loans Bank loans are traditional funding methods where startups borrow money and repay it with interest. This option does not require giving up equity but does require a solid business plan and creditworthiness. Best Practices to Attract Investors 1. Develop a Solid Business Plan Investors need to see a well-thought-out business plan that outlines your vision, market analysis, revenue model, and growth strategy. Ensure your plan highlights the potential return on investment. 2. Build a Strong Team A talented and dedicated team is crucial for success. Investors are more likely to fund a startup with a strong leadership team that has relevant experience and a proven track record. 3. Create a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) Developing an MVP demonstrates your ability to execute your idea and provides a tangible product for investors to evaluate. It also helps validate your business concept in the market. 4. Network and Build Relationships Attend industry events, join startup incubators, and use online platforms like LinkedIn to connect with potential investors. Building relationships can lead to valuable introductions and funding opportunities. 5. Show Traction Demonstrate market demand and your startup’s potential by showing early sales, user growth, or partnerships. Traction proves that there is a viable market for your product or service. Conclusion Understanding how startup funding works is essential for any entrepreneur looking to turn their business idea into a successful company. By familiarizing yourself with the various stages and types of funding, and following best practices to attract investors, you can secure the capital needed to launch and grow your startup. About | My name is Sohrab Vazir. I’m a UK-based entrepreneur and business consultant. At the age of 22, and while I was an international student (graduate), I started my own Property Technology (PropTech) business, StudyFlats. I now help other entrepreneurs, such as myself, with their businesses, and mainly with obtaining endorsements from the endorsing bodies.

How I started a tech startup with £500 & scaled it to 30+ UK cities

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Following the completion of my master’s degree, I founded a tech startup called StudyFlats. Within 3 years, I scaled this PropTech company to over 30 UK cities, with a client base in over 50 countries.  As a solo non-technical founder, the idea for StudyFlats seemed far-fetched at first. My business idea was first put to the test when I spoke to Newcastle University. I was an international student in the UK on a visa and therefore had to obtain the correct visa.  I pitched the idea to Newcastle University and managed to receive an endorsement for the Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneur Visa scheme. This was the former equivalent of the former Startup Visa in the UK.  The first year  The first year was one of the most difficult years of my life. I was a 22-year-old graduate, with a laptop and £500 in my bank account. Not to mention that I had no coding knowledge/background and thus could not create the website myself.  I was getting quotes upwards of £10,000 from agencies to create StudyFlats’ website. Needless to say, these were not an option and I was stuck.  At the same time, a very dear friend of mine from University, introduced me to a developer who agreed to complete the backend functionalities, whilst I learnt the other parts, especially SEO as I knew I’d heavily rely on it.  In the meantime, I was proofreading students’s assignments and dissertations to fund the business and my daily expenses (living in a single room with shared toilets that year was no fun at all).  The lesson that I learnt was: where there’s a will there’s a way. I had no option but to grow this company despite all the hurdles.  The second & third years year  In the second and third years, things began to improve.  By the second year, StudyFlats operated in 10 cities. However, this is also when a major competitor began scaling with £70m of funding! It is also worth noting that StudyFlats worked with contractors/freelancers during the second year. Hence, there was no “team” at this point and I essentially did everything that was needed.  However, I adopted 2 strategies that gained a unique competitive advantage for StudyFlats, which was integral to its growth. These were: By the end of 2019, we were a team of five, operated across 30+ UK cities, consulted 1000+ students from 50+ countries, and had investors approaching us themselves.  March 2020: goodbye And this is where the brutal reality hits: you can do everything right and things can still go south.  With the events of 2020, I was reluctant to maintain the company’s operations for that period as it seemed extremely unpredictable and possibly a recipe for liability.  Additionally, we needed cash to maintain the company’s operations, yet this was simply not possible as we paused our operations. By 2021, I considered relaunching the company’s operations. However, after considering several factors including the desire to do what I do now as a consultant, I made the very difficult decision that every founder resents. However, I see StudyFlats as a learning experience, the driver of my settlement in the UK and an opportunity that was missed due to factors outside my control. We live and learn, it is what it is.  Starting and scaling a (tech) startup is not for the faint-hearted. It involves pain, uncertainty, disappointment, rejection and loneliness. But in the end, it can all be worth it, as it was in my case.  About | My name is Sohrab Vazir. I’m a UK-based entrepreneur and business consultant. At the age of 22, and while I was an international student (graduate), I started my own Property Technology (PropTech) business, StudyFlats. I now help other migrant entrepreneurs, such as myself, with their businesses, and mainly with obtaining endorsements from the endorsing bodies.

Are online courses useful for people starting their own business?

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If you are thinking of starting your own business, then you may have considered completing online courses. In recent years, there has been an unprecedented surge in the provision of online courses, especially around starting your own business. However, are they useful? Or simply useless? The answer to the above is: it depends. Online courses can be useful for people who want to start their own business. However, you must use them in the right way and with the right intention.  Let me answer this question differently. Generally, with business, you are preoccupied with three key questions: The question is whether an online course would be appropriate for and beneficial in answering those three questions.  Online courses are useless for the “Why”  There are a myriad of courses on “business mindset”, “growth hacks”, “growth mindset”, “billionaire mindset” and so on.  These promise to give you the right mindset to make your billions (and yes, it is most definitely utter BS).  I believe that any entrepreneur should start a business out of their instinct. They should not need any person or entity telling them why they should start a business or get into the right mindset of setting one.  Entrepreneurship is a journey of evolution  Understanding the context of this article demands an understanding of the philosophy of entrepreneurship.  Entrepreneurship is inherently defined by risk and uncertainty. It is unconventional. There is a reason why the majority do not pursue this path, despite not necessarily loving their daily jobs. It is about understanding and accepting that you are taking a massive risk. You can do everything right, and it can still fail.  Therefore, beginning this journey under a guided course is the wrong way to approach this path.  Online courses are good for the “What” and the “How” Now that we have clarified where online courses for starting a business are not helpful, let’s consider the other side.  I elaborated on a few points concerning entrepreneurship. Here are an additional 2 that are relevant: skills and knowledge.  Implementing, managing and executing a business venture demands certain skills, and it may be specific to each founder and business.  This is where online courses “may” be helpful for people starting their businesses. So long as you identify the following: Let’s look at an example below (me): Sohrab wants to start an online consultancy business. His main way of getting clients is online through his website and Google search. Therefore, Sohrab needs to understand Google Analytics to analyse his website’s performance. In this case, an online course on Google Analytics could be helpful for Sohrab.  Starting your own business can be daunting. Need help? About My name is Sohrab Vazir. I’m a UK-based entrepreneur and business consultant. At the age of 22, and while I was an international student (graduate), I started my own Property Technology (PropTech) business, StudyFlats. I grew my business to over 30 UK cities, and a team of four prior to 2020. Currently, I help other entrepreneurs start their businesses.

The general costs of running a limited company in the UK

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If you want to start a business in the UK, one of the most common ways is through incorporating a limited company.  There are various business structures in the UK that one may start a business through. The most common ways are: It is ultimately up to you to decide which structure fits you best. Each has its own tax implications and regulatory requirements.  However, assuming that you wish to start a limited company in the UK, below are some of the costs that you will incur. Accounting  Limited companies require the director(s) to submit annual accounts. Preparing and filing a limited company’s accounts, in most cases, will require an accountant’s assistance.  The costs of an accountant can vary based on:  Generally, you can expect to pay your accountant anywhere between £500-£2000 per year.  These are broad estimates, and you may even have to pay more in certain circumstances.  Registered address UK limited companies require a registered address. If you have an office, then that address will suffice.  However, if you do not have an office, there are two options: Confirmation statement Limited companies are required to file a Confirmation Statement every year, which costs £13.  On many occasions, this fee will be covered by your accountant as part of their services. Company incorporation Depending on how you incorporate your company, there is an incorporation fee.  The cost can range from £10 to £40. Corporation tax This will depend on whether your UK limited company makes a profit.  Currently, the UK’s corporation tax rate is per below: 19% : for limited companies with profits between 0-£50,000  25%: for limited companies with profits above £250,000  For full information, please refer to the UK Government’s website. These are some of the general costs of running a UK limited company.  If you are planning to start a business in the UK and need help, get in touch with me to start your journey today. About | My name is Sohrab Vazir. I’m a UK-based entrepreneur and business consultant. At the age of 22, and while I was an international student (graduate), I started my own Property Technology (PropTech) business, StudyFlats which I scaled to over 30 UK cities. I currently help other entrepreneurs and businesses of all size across several domains. For my credentials, please see here.

6 useful AI tools for founders & businesses

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AI tools are revolutionising the world of work for founders and businesses. From customer service to content creation, AI-powered tools have simplified many of the old processes. In this article, I will highlight 6 AI tools that are super useful for founders and businesses.  As a founder or a business, you must use your time and resources efficiently. AI-powered tools help you do so.  The world of AI has advanced rapidly, and new ways of using it evolve every day.  Now let’s talk about some of those awesome AI tools that will help founders and businesses maximise their offer. Canva Canva has added various AI functionalities to enhance its content creation features.  For those who don’t know Canva: it is one of the entrepreneurship world’s biggest gifts to humanity.  Canva is useful for both founders and other members of businesses for content creation. Recently it has added several useful AI functionalities, making it even more awesome.  The YouTube video below highlights some of these really well, so make sure to check it out! Grammarly In this day and age, grammar and spelling mistakes are becoming a thing of the past. We may partially thank the education system for that. However, a big chunk of this progress is thanks to the power of technology.  Grammarly is a reflection of this. It is powered by AI and improves your text and writing. Personally, I’m the type to write typos all the time, personally because I have 50 tabs open on my browser, so Grammarly has been a real treat for me!  Tidio Chatbots have become increasingly popular in the last few years. Moreover, many chatbots are powered by AI, including Tidio.  Tidio offers a range of benefits, including: -Easy-to-use & simple interface -Integration with various platforms such as WordPress, Shopify & Wix  -Customizable AI-powered chatbots & lead generators Personally, as a founder and business owner, I am a big fan of Tidio as an AI-powered tool, and it also comes with a free version. ChatGPT I was not sure if I should mention ChatGPT, given all the hype surrounding it and its parent company, OpenAI.  However, a list of AI tools for founders and businesses would be incomplete without ChatGPT. There are so many things that founders and businesses can do with ChatGPT, including (but not limited to): -Content creation -Editing written content  -Provision of information  -Code: generation, debugging and more Synthesia  Another one of my favourite AI tools for founders and businesses is Synthesia.  Synthesia is a video creation and media generation platform powered by AI.  It helps you create professional videos and use AI-based characters as narrators, who look (too) similar to real humans! Notion AI  Using your time and resources efficiently is crucial as a founder and/or a business. Therefore, the last few years have witnessed the emergence of many task management and teamwork tools such as Notion or Trello.  Notion reserves a unique spot, as it has gone a step further by harnessing the power of AI. This functionality helps founders and businesses to use Notion AI for tasks such as: -Information management and categorisation  -Translation -Content generation -Simplification of information  -and much more…….. These are 6 useful AI tools for founders and businesses. As a founder, it’s important to keep yourself updated with the latest tech innovations and leverage them to your benefit.  About | My name is Sohrab Vazir. I’m a UK-based entrepreneur and business consultant. At the age of 22, and while I was an international student (graduate), I started my own Property Technology (PropTech) business, StudyFlats which I scaled to over 30 UK cities. I currently help other entrepreneurs and businesses of all size across several domains. For my credentials, please see here.

What you should NOT do when writing an Innovator Founder visa business plan

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Writing an Innovator Founder visa business plan can be challenging. That’s one of the reasons why many international founders opt to work with me on their Innovator Founder visa business plan.  This article solely represents a case of personal evaluation and opinion. It shall by no means constitute immigration and/or professional advice. If you plan to apply for the Innovator Founder visa, you must prepare a business plan. I have previously written an article about how to create an Innovator Founder visa business plan. In this article, I want to share some tips on writing an Innovator Founder visa business plan. Specifically, I will be highlighting things that you should NOT do when you are planning your venture.  Remember: the perfect business plan does not boil down to being well-written or well-designed (although these are also essential). Writing the ideal Innovator Founder visa business plan requires a well-thought, viable and clear business proposition.  These tips will help you in formulating both your business plan, as well as some of the fundamental aspects of your business planning.  Overpromise  This is one of the biggest mistakes made by founders. Sadly, international entrepreneurs are not exempt either.  And it’s easy to understand why: you want to present the “ideal” image for your concept, whether it’s to the Innovator Founder Endorsing Bodies, the Home Office or even investors. However, this is a dangerous mistake, especially if you are held accountable for making progress against your initial Innovator Founder visa business plan.  Underestimate your competition & market dynamics In line with the last point, some founders also underestimate their market and competition.  This may be done either intentionally, to present an inaccurate/idealistic image of the market, or unintentionally as a result of personal neglect.  Overestimate your offer This is an advice that you may not get from many consultants.  Remember: simplicity is key. Keep everything as simple and straightforward as possible. Don’t write pages and pages about why your product is ideal and what it does. Instead, dedicate your content to presenting evidence of your venture and the market’s viability.  Neglect the financials  Cash flow and financial management are integral to every business. You must plan for and state all instances of incoming and outgoing cash flow.  Have a plan B for every scenario and determine the financial implications of all scenarios.  Need help with writing your Innovator Founder visa business plan? Read about my full services here to find out more.  About | My name is Sohrab Vazir. I’m a UK-based entrepreneur and business consultant. At the age of 22, and while I was an international student (graduate), I started my own Property Technology (PropTech) business, StudyFlats. I did so by obtaining an endorsement from Newcastle University under the Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneur Scheme. Subsequently, I obtained a further 3-year Tier 1 Entrepreneur Visa (replaced by the Innovator Founder Visa). I grew my business to over 30 UK cities, and a team of four, and also obtained my Indefinite Leave to Remain (Settlement) in the UK. I now help other migrant entrepreneurs, such as myself, with their businesses.

Why SEO is more than just a marketing strategy?

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The consensus around SEO is viewing it as another marketing tool and strategy. However, this view is thoroughly incorrect; SEO’s function and impact go far beyond mere marketing.  Okay so before I explain the vast functions of SEO, let’s go over what is and entails.  What is SEO? Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the process and practices that aim to increase a specific webpage and/or website’s presence and exposure within internet search engines.  As you may be aware, the most popular search engine in the world is Google. Therefore a considerable number of services and literature around SEO revolve specifically around Google.  SEO as a marketing strategy  In the modern age, our first source of information online is Google/search engines. Hence, it is not a surprise that plenty of marketing campaigns are based on search marketing.  First of all, It is important to distinguish between SEO and SMO (social media optimization).  Secondly, for the sake of clarity, this article will primarily focus on SEO and the role of search engines.  SEO enables businesses to gain exposure to local and international audiences, using a range of metrics in doing so.  SEO | brand identity and reputational factor What others say about a business is important, unless you are dealing with an organized smear campaign.  Note that in the heading I used the word “identity”. SEO is closely aligned with the “identity” factor both in an individual and corporate context.  As I stated before, the main method through which we obtain information about a person or company is by Google/search engines.  What appears about you and your business online is the first “picture” that portrays your individual and/or corporate identity.  SEO demonstrates competence  In line with the previous point about brand identity, SEO reveals more than elementary information about an entity.  For instance, say you are looking for a specific service and/or product.  Most individuals do not look beyond page 1 of Google’s search results. Why? You can partly blame it on laziness. However, I argue that it’s the principle of ‘trust” involved in this scenario. When an individual or company has a strong SEO presence, it (correctly) creates an indirect reflection of its competence.  SEO is integral to inbound marketing I recently wrote an article highlighting the importance of inbound marketing.  To keep it brief, I argued that today’s world is hyper-competitive, and therefore you require innovative approaches to marketing. As such, inbound marketing and specifically industry/subject knowledge is an efficient activity within the inbound marketing domain.  SEO is the bridge between thought leadership and prospects becoming aware of the thought leader. If you need help with SEO,  content writing, or online reputation management, get in touch with me today.  About | My name is Sohrab Vazir. I’m a UK-based entrepreneur and business consultant. At the age of 22, and while I was an international student (graduate), I started my own Property Technology (PropTech) business, StudyFlats. As a solo founder, I grew my business to 30+ UK cities, with a global client base across 100+ countries. Following the Pandemic killing my precious work/business, I now transfer my knowledge to other entrepreneurs.

3 UK legislations that business owners should be aware of

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There are various UK legislations that business owners must comply with. The UK can be a fantastic place to start a business. However, it is imperative that you are aware of your legal obligations under applicable legislations as a business owner.  I have navigated the path of business ownership in one of its worst versions. I was an immigrant subjected to strict business visa terms, 22 years of age and a solo tech founder. So, I know how difficult the whole entrepreneurship can be for each individual. And in this journey, it’s easy to miss some important things.  So, in this article, I will highlight three UK legislations that every business owner must be aware of.  Data Protection & GDPR (Almost) every business retains and handles personal data. This may seem like one of those “complex corporate” things, it’s crucial to understand.  This is a legal area which is subject to misunderstanding, primarily in individual and small business owners. The issue with this part is that many business owners are unaware of.  Let me clarify this part with a small case study/example. If you use a website, whether through CMS platforms such as WordPress or Wix, or even code it from scratch, you are collecting user data.  In the UK, the key legislations that business owners must be aware of are: Data Protection Act 2018  General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) Also, ensure that you follow the ICO’s guidelines for your obligations under GDPR.  Equality Act 2010 The Equality Act 2010 governs the implementation of non-discrimination and equality in the UK. This UK legislation is applicable to individuals in various contexts, including work.  As a business owner, it is important to firstly be aware of your own rights as an individual. It also governs your stakeholder management and how you conduct matters with each, such as customers and staff.  Intellectual Property (IP) Intellectual property will primarily concern trade marks and patents. While each of the aforementioned may be applicable to a business, the majority of businesses are concerned with trade marks.  Trade marks are applicable to every business as every business requires an identity, where name is the core element.  Thus, it is key to understand your branding rights and limitations. This will be attained via sufficient understanding of how trade marks work in the UK.  The relevant UK legislations on trade marks for business owners is the Trade Marks Act 1994.  Additionally, business owners may access resources provided by the Intellectual Property Office.  Patents, on the other hand, are concerned with respect to rights over an “invention” in the form of products and/or processes. In the UK, the legislation concerning business owners is the Patents Act 1977.  Are you a business owner and need consultancy on your operations? Book an initial consultation with me for a thorough evaluation………  About | My name is Sohrab Vazir. I’m a UK-based entrepreneur and business consultant. At the age of 22, and while I was an international student (graduate), I started my own Property Technology (PropTech) business, StudyFlats. As a solo founder, I grew my business to 30+ UK cities, with a global client base across 100+ countries. Following the Pandemic killing my precious work/business, I now transfer my knowledge to other entrepreneurs.

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